State #37

“Back in 2014 I made a New Year’s resolution to visit as many new states as possible. By the end of that year the number of states I had personally visited rose from 27 to 33, thanks to an East Coast road trip and a Yellowstone National Park vacation. 6 new states in one year wasn’t too bad. Then in 2015 I added another two states to the list (New Jersey and Alaska). But since then my travel has stagnated somewhat. However, I am happy to announce that in 2018 I have finally added state #36 – Oregon! It’s hard to believe I’d never been there before considering how long I’ve been living on the West Coast.”
09/10/18 webpage post

I went more than a year without setting foot in a new state. What a disappointment! In early 2019 I realized that I didn’t have any trips planned to unvisited states, so I checked the University of Florida football schedule to see if there were any away games that would fit the bill. My first idea was to go to the Mizzou game in Columbia, MO on 11/16, but I already had plans that weekend. My second choice was the South Carolina game on 10/19, which fit perfectly in my schedule.

I flew into Columbia, SC a couple of days ahead of time (it’s funny that both games I considered attending took place in cities named Columbia) and my parents drove up from Florida to meet me. The Friday before the football game we took advantage of the beautiful weather and visited Congaree National Park. We also walked along the river a bit and had an incredible BBQ meal, complete with banana pudding for dessert. You can’t visit South Carolina without sampling their BBQ. On Saturday morning we spent some time walking around the lovely state capitol complex (except for the many disconcerting Confederate monuments), which was close to our hotel, but then the weather took an unfortunate turn. Tropical Storm Nestor barreled onto the scene around midday and it started raining cats and dogs. My parents and I had really great seats for the football game, but we would have to brave the cold, wet weather in order to use them. And football games aren’t short either. We weighed our options all morning, and eventually decided that we would be much happier watching from the warmth and comfort of our hotel room rather than getting soaked at the stadium. Luckily Florida still won. Go Gators!

On Sunday morning we visited the Riverbanks Zoo before I had to go to the airport. It’s a fantastic zoo and we all really enjoyed it. Lots of interesting animals. We saw a mama gorilla with a baby on her back, got pretty close to some giraffes as they were feeding, and watched a penguin perform the same trick over and over to amuse his fans. Plus, I took some really silly pictures with a llama for Instagram. We would have liked to stay longer, but I had a flight back to California to catch. I wasn’t at all disappointed that we missed seeing the football game in person on Saturday because that wasn’t the only reason for this trip. Not only did I get to fill in South Carolina on my states visited map (see above), but I also got to see my parents for the first time since Christmas. Plus, SC is really beautiful. I want to go back sometime and see more.

Just a silly story from the end of 2019

Written on 1/1/20
Happy New Year, everyone! I’m sitting at my dining room table wrapped in a blanket (my thermostat is currently inoperable so no central heat) trying to figure out what to do on this first day of January. New Year’s Day 2020 looks a lot different when compared to previous iterations. First of all, it’s 10:30 AM and I’m still in my pajamas. My usual January 1st tradition is to go to Disneyland in the early morning, before the large crowds arrive, but due to my myriad of health issues that is not something that I can count on being able to do. I went to bed at 10 PM last night because I wanted to give myself the best chance of fulfilling my tradition, but when I woke up at 6:30 AM today my body told me it wasn’t going to happen. I have gotten much better at listening to my body when it tells me I don’t have the energy for a particular activity, so I wasn’t going to push myself. Hence why I’m still in my pajamas!

So my energy level was so low on January 1st that I never even finished this post! Having chronic illnesses means that nonessential activities often fall by the wayside. I really hate it, but sometimes I’m forced to operate in survival mode where rest trumps everything. That was basically the entirety of my New Year’s Day. However, one of my goals for 2020 is to blog regularly. (In order to avoid undue stress I’m not going to explicitly define what “regularly” means. At least not yet.) Making New Year’s resolutions have never worked out well for me so I’m not going to write a traditional list or anything. I just have a few goals for the year that I want to work on. So for my first post of 2020 here is a little story from the end of 2019!

I took my large suitcase to Tallahassee for Christmas because I was going to be there for a full week, and December weather in Florida weather can be extremely variable. I needed clothes for warm weather, plus coats of different weights in case winter decided to show up for any period of time. This suitcase was a Christmas gift from my ex-husband back in 2008 (see the first photo above) when we were traveling to New Zealand for the holidays. An amazing present. It was a really nice (and expensive) suitcase, but back then luggage didn’t have the multi-directional spinner wheels like they do now. A suitcase only had two wheels so you could tilt it by the handle and drag it behind you through the airport. Not ideal these days, but still perfectly functional, even at 11 years-old. Except for the antiquated wheel technology this suitcase is perfect. First of all, it’s bright green (i.e., easily identifiable on any baggage claim carousel). Also, it’s big enough to hold a lot, but not so big that I have to worry about it being over any airline’s checked baggage weight limit. I had absolutely no complaints about this piece of luggage…until December 29th. On my way home from the holidays I flew from Tallahassee to Orange County with a layover in Dallas. I was tired when my flight arrived at the John Wayne airport that evening so as soon as my suitcase appeared in baggage claim I was happy to grab it and start my journey back home. As I began the long walk to the parking structure I wondered why my bag felt so sluggish. Maybe the wheels didn’t function well on the airport carpet? I wasn’t sure. But when I got outside onto the concrete I knew something was amiss. Upon further inspection one of the two wheels on my trusty green suitcase was gone (see the second photo above). So sad! (And so much harder to drag to my car with only one wheel!) He had flown his last flight. Farewell to my trusty traveling companion of 11 years! You will be missed!

State #36

Back in 2014 I made a New Year’s resolution to visit as many new states as possible. By the end of that year the number of states I had personally visited rose from 27 to 33, thanks to an East Coast road trip and a Yellowstone National Park vacation. 6 new states in one year wasn’t too bad. Then in 2015 I added another two states to the list (New Jersey and Alaska). But since then my travel has stagnated somewhat. However, I am happy to announce that in 2018 I have finally added state #36 – Oregon! It’s hard to believe I’d never been there before considering how long I’ve been living on the West Coast. Fortunately I had the outstanding excuse of a friend’s wedding reception to get me there in 2018. It was an extremely short trip, but I had a great time.

I arrived in Portland later than I expected the day of the wedding reception due to my connecting flight from Seattle being delayed twice. Yes, I had to fly past Portland to Seattle on one flight only to backtrack to my final destination on my second flight. Very annoying. Knowing that my flight was delayed, I applied my makeup in an extremely crowded Seattle airport bathroom to save myself a little time later. Then, when I collected my checked bag in Portland, I changed into my dress for the reception in a nearby bathroom. I was way behind schedule. I had originally planned to take the train from the airport to my hotel, I had even pre-purchased a $2.50 ticket, but it was going to take too long so I reluctantly took a taxi instead. It took about 30 min and cost $60. Ugh. But I got to the hotel in just enough time to stash my bag in my room and catch an Uber to the wedding reception with some of my friends. Phew!

The reception itself was lovely. We ate mini cupcakes as appetizers (genius), deconstructed tacos for dinner (delicious), and tres leches cake for dessert (the best cake I’ve ever tasted). But the most meaningful part was hanging out with my online friends who I don’t get to see very often. Several of them I was meeting in person for the first time, and the others I vacationed with in Hawaii in 2015. (A couple have been to LA since then so I was able to spend time with them at Disneyland, but that’s the exception.) I am so lucky to have found this group of women. It’s remarkable, really. Over the last 13 years they have been there for me through everything, both good and bad. They have changed my life for the better and I seriously don’t know what I would do without them. Flying all the way to Portland for a little over 24 hours was completely worth it.

That night after the reception I was exhausted and passed out early after taking a much-needed shower. Unfortunately that meant I missed a lot of shenanigans that happened after hours, including a midnight trip to Portland’s famous Voodoo Doughnut. I am so annoyed that I didn’t get to go, but my body apparently needed almost 12 hours of sleep! The next morning we all headed over to the bride and groom’s house for a donut reception. Yes, more donuts! We had a great time gorging ourselves on sugary pastries, laughing, chatting, and being our usual weird selves. And attempting to ingratiate ourselves with the resident cat, Nibbler. At one point I picked him up to prevent him from escaping out the front door, but he didn’t appreciate that. He bit me several times. (Just little warning nips on my arm so nothing serious.) Fortunately he forgave me later and purred when I pet him. My friends and I reveled in spending all this time together. One of the ladies had already hopped a flight back home, and other folks had to take off for the airport throughout the morning and afternoon, so it was a little sad that our brief reunion was coming to an end.

After the donut reception I went back to the hotel, retrieved my bag, hugged everyone goodbye, and started making my way to the airport. This time I was able to take the train and it was fantastic. I only had to walk a few blocks from the hotel to the train stop, the train was clean and not crowded, and the trip to the Portland airport was scenic and relaxing. Totally worth the $2.50 fare (and way more cost-effective than my taxi ride the day before). And I had a direct flight to Orange County this time so my travel home was completely uneventful. I was upset that my trip to Oregon was over so quickly, but I will definitely go back and spend some more time there in the future. It was way too beautiful not to revisit. Plus, I have friends who live there and have a guest bedroom! It’s a shame that my online friends are scattered all over the country because seeing them makes my heart happy. I am going to do my best to organize another get-together next year so that we don’t go three years between reunions again.

Las Vegas addendum

After finishing yesterday’s post I finally found what I was looking for last night. Turns out I did indeed write a review of Star Wars Episode II after my initial viewing in May 2002, but I’ll spare you that tripe. However, as a comparison, here’s the portion of that post where 23 year-old me described our quest to see Episode II shortly after it happened. I may have gotten some of the details wrong in my retelling yesterday!

“As soon as my dad and I got to Las Vegas I started calling movie theaters to see which one had a digital projector. Since ‘Attack of the Clones’ was filmed entirely in digital format we wanted to see the movie the way George Lucas intended it to be viewed. The Orleans casino turned out to be the place to see digital Star Wars in Las Vegas. It was absolutely amazing. The difference between digital and film is akin to the difference between DVD and video. The clarity (i.e., the lack of lines and spots on the screen) made every detail of an expression or a costume noticeable. If a director really wants to draw a viewer into a movie then digital is the way to go. That, and having a great story to tell (i.e., Star Wars).”
5/23/02 webpage post

Las Vegas

On Sunday I got back from spending the weekend in Las Vegas with my running buddies. I’ll write more about that later, but our trip reminded me of another time I was in Las Vegas and I wanted to share that story first.

In 2001 when Dan and I were first dating we spent a weekend in Las Vegas, but I was underwhelmed. I thought the variety of over-the-top themed hotels and casinos was novel and interesting, but since I don’t gamble, drink, or party the city didn’t really have anything to hold my interest. (FYI, on subsequent visits I was introduced to some of the lesser-known attractions that are much more my style. Like state parks, art museums, outstanding restaurants, beautiful shops, and the now sadly defunct Star Trek: The Experience at the hotel formerly known as the Las Vegas Hilton.) When we drove home from Las Vegas after that first trip I didn’t really have any desire to return. The second time I went there was a bit different. It was May 2002 and my dad and I were driving from Florida to California before I started my second Boeing internship. We spent two weeks on the road, visiting both sides of the family (in Ft. Smith, AR and Wichita, KS) as well as three of my top-choice grad schools (Georgia Tech, University of Colorado at Boulder, and Stanford). We had a fantastic time even though we basically had to live out of my tiny Dodge Neon and subsist on fast food hamburgers. About two-thirds of the way through the trip we found ourselves in the vicinity of Las Vegas and decided to spend a night there. I can’t remember exactly why, but it might have been because “Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones” had just been released and we wanted to see it. I know it’s the standard now, but back in 2002 digital movie projection was new and exciting and Episode II was one of the first movies to employ it. Tallahassee didn’t have a theater with a digital projector, but I figured Las Vegas might have this thrilling new technology. This was back before smart phones or wifi (or even reliable cell phone service) so I must have done research on theaters on my laptop using the dial-up internet connection of the hotel where we were staying a day or two before. Super high tech, huh? Lucky for us there was a theater featuring digital projection in The Orleans Casino. The bottom line is that, Attack of the Clones was the first movie I saw in digital format. Also, that was probably my best trip to Las Vegas. Road trip with my dad plus Star Wars. What could be better?

P.S. Since I was blogging back then I though I had written an account of this experience at the time (or at the very least a first-impression review of Episode II), but I can’t seem to find anything. Maybe I have it in an old Word document. I’ll keep looking!

Business travel again (Part 2)

A continuation of my musings from the Denver airport on 4/14 while waiting for my flight to DC. Because my train is tired tonight and writing something original isn’t going to happen after such a long work week!

As I was preparing for this trip I checked the DC weather and saw that it was going to be fairly cool, but not exactly frigid while I was there. It’s been three weeks since my last visit and much to my delight I wasn’t going to need the super warmth factor of my North Face down jacket this time around. So while I was packing I flipped through my closet and pulled out another option. It was the North Face jacket that I purchased back in 2016 for a January trip to DC. You know, the one that went completely unworn because the week I was there was unseasonably warm? Well, it still had the tags attached! I can’t believe it’s been hanging in my closet for over two years, lonely and neglected. But no more! It’s a lovely purple color and it fits great so I’m glad I kept it. Hopefully this jacket will be just what I need to brave the weather in DC this week. Of course I already spilled some of my protein shake on it this morning on the way to the airport so that’s annoying. It will have to go straight into in the wash when I get home!

This time around I also didn’t need the boots and their accompanying knee socks I hastily purchased in March. It’s not going to be nearly cold enough to require such hefty footwear. And it’s a good thing too because those boots gave me blisters. They fulfilled their purpose of protecting my feet from the cold on my last trip, but I don’t foresee myself wearing them again anytime soon. My favorite little leather flats were perfectly suited to handle the last gasp of winter in DC this week. And they take up so much less space in my suitcase. That allowed me to pack both my running shoes and my gym shoes for maximum workout potential. Whether I’ll wear both pairs on this trip seems unlikely, but at least I have them if I get ambitious with my exercise!

Business travel again (Part 1)

Written on 4/14 in the Denver airport while waiting for my flight to DC. I never feel comfortable using my laptop on a plane anymore given how cramped all of the seats are so I spent most of my layover in Denver writing. I have a silly follow-up story that I will post later this week.

I’m headed to DC again this morning. Currently I’m sitting in the Denver airport waiting for my connecting flight. And in similar fashion to all of my other recent travel, it’s delayed. Why am I not surprised? When going to DC I always like to arrive as early in the day as possible, but having to stop in Denver this time makes that a bit difficult. Luckily all I really need to do when I arrive this evening is go to the grocery store. There’s no way I can maintain my clean-ish eating plan without some fresh produce and healthy snacks. Temptation is always present! This time it will be in the form of Firehouse Subs and Potbelly Sandwiches. (Maybe they make salads? I’ll have to check.) Luckily I did find at least two restaurants that are salad-focused so I won’t have to eat pre-packaged ones every day. If I can stick to my diet this week I’m going to be very pleased with myself. And a little shocked! Similarly, I’d also like to hit the gym tonight, but that’s debatable given that my flight won’t arrive until about 5 PM. I’m missing my usual classes at the gym this week, which annoys me, but I’m going to try to keep up with the workouts on my own. My running buddy will send me the exercises from the classes she attends and I’ll do my best to replicate them in my hotel fitness center. I picked this hotel because they seem to have a nice, large workout space, unlike so many other places that only have a couple of cardio machines, and sometimes only one of each kind which can be problematic. I’ll definitely need some weights to do the boot camp routines. I really should run on the treadmill a couple of times as well, but that’s unlikely given my hatred of that infernal machine. I even brought both my running shoes and gym shows with me this time in case I feel motivated to mix things up. There wasn’t a single bit of extra space in my suitcase when I finished packing, but it’ll be worth it if my fitness routine doesn’t deteriorate while I’m away from home.

Regarding my flight back to LA on Friday, I was fortunate/smart enough to book a nonstop flight to LAX to hopefully avoid the drama of my last trip. Like last time, I have an event that I don’t want to miss shortly after I get home. I’m going to the Dodger game with some co-workers on Friday night so I absolutely, positively have to meet them at 4 PM to carpool to downtown LA. I hate making that drive myself, especially in rush hour traffic. My flight home is supposed to land at about 11:30 AM so that should give me more than enough time to stop by my house, change into baseball game appropriate apparel, and still make the required rendezvous. It’s Hello Kitty night at the Dodger game so there’s no way I’m going to miss it. We get t-shirts! Also, we’re sitting in the coveted all-you-can-eat section of the stadium. Usually that’s a great deal because you can get as many hot dogs, nachos, popcorn, drinks, etc. that you want, but it’s not so great for those of us on a diet that prohibits almost everything that tastes delicious! If I can successfully avoid sugar and grains while I’m on business travel I think I’ll allow myself to eat one or two hot dogs (necessary carbs for weekend running) at the game. And I’ll wash it down with unlimited diet soda! Not the healthiest choice I could make, but not the worst under the circumstances either. I do have a race on Saturday morning as well so that’s another reason to get home on schedule. Funny enough, it’s the Angels 5K at Anaheim Stadium. My running group is will all be there. It’s funny that I’ll be visiting both LA baseball stadiums in less than 24 hours!

Stay tuned for part 2!

Necessary purchases

“When I went to DC the week before last I took four jackets with me. This Florida/California girl does not handle much more than a mild winter very well so I packed two fleeces, a sweatshirt, and a North Face jacket that I’d just bought. I haven’t needed a heavier coat in years so in order to be prepared for potentially cold temperatures in DC I went in search of one before I left on my trip. … And after all that effort I ended up not needing it at all! In fact, it was too warm in DC that week for just about all of the outerwear I brought with me. So this new jacket that I went through so much trouble to obtain went completely unworn.”
2/15/16 webpage post

On March 12th I found out I was going on a business trip to New York and DC the following week. On its own this was great news since I haven’t traveled for work in more than two years (January 2016 per the above quote) and I miss seeing my DC co-workers on a regular basis…but then I checked the weather. The place I was headed to in New York was going to be freezing. I don’t own a single jacket or pair of shoes that can handle lows in the teens and highs in the 20s. Brr! My time in Florida and California has done nothing to equip me for such temperatures. My closet full of light fleece jackets and flimsy leather flats just weren’t going to cut it in such a cold climate. So on March 16th I went to the North Face store, browsed the sale rack in desperation, and then begged a salesman for help. He was invaluable helping me pick out a jacket that was appropriate for the minimal amount of time I was planning to spent outside in the cold (basically just walking to and from my car at the airport, my hotel, and work). And on sale too! You don’t know how relieved I was to walk out of the store with a jacket. I wasn’t going to freeze to death in New York!

Then on March 18th, the very last day before I left town, I went to the mall in flip-flops and a hoodie (a true Southern California outfit) to find a pair of boots for my trip. I thought for sure I would find lots of options to try on and choose from at DSW Shoe Warehouse, but I was wrong. Turns out mid-March is way too late in the year to shop for boots. I had no idea! I got rid of my last few pairs years ago and now I wish I hadn’t. (In the last couple of years I have fallen in love with Tieks flats and I haven’t worn anything else to work since then.) After striking out at DSW I suddenly got very anxious about finding suitable footwear for cold weather before leaving California. Luckily, a lovely Macy’s employee scoured their limited stock of winter shoes where she found a pair of simple black ankle boots in my size. And by some miracle they actually fit my crazy narrow feet and felt pretty good. Hallelujah! I am so grateful to that Macy’s saleswoman. My feet weren’t blocks of ice in New York thanks to her. (The downside was learning the hard way that the boots were NOT made for walking. Hoofing it through three airports on March 21st was painful.) So I figure the necessary purchases of the jacket and boots make up for the unnecessarily purchased jacket for my trip to DC two years ago. Things have a way of working out eventually!

The race that almost wasn’t

You don’t know how happy I was to run the Seal Beach 5K on March 24th. Not because it’s my beloved hometown race or because I can basically roll out of bed and walk to the start line, but because I had to defy the odds to get there this year. I was on a business trip to two different cities during the week, and I booked my flight home on Friday evening so that I would be back in time to run the race on Saturday morning. It wasn’t ideal with my plane landing in Orange County at 10 PM, but I was committed. However, things didn’t exactly go as planned.

On Monday my flight from Orange County to New York (with a layover in Atlanta) was blessedly uneventful. It was so cold in New York, though. Luckily there was no snowfall while I was there and I didn’t have to deal with much ice due to covered parking at my hotel. That leg of my trip was very successful. Then it came time for me to fly to DC on Wednesday evening. Of course that was the day Winter Storm Toby was terrorizing the eastern seaboard so it seemed very likely that my travel plans would have to change. But as the day progressed Delta never modified my itinerary or downgraded the status of my flights so I headed to the airport as planned. My co-workers who were on direct flights that afternoon had to reschedule their travel for the next day. However, since I had a completely out-of-the-way layover in Detroit first, I somehow made it to Dulles without any trouble because my flight landed around 9 PM. By then the snow had stopped and the roads were perfectly clear when driving to my hotel. It really couldn’t have been any easier. I thought the worst was over, but I was so wrong.

On Friday evening I headed to Dulles to fly back home, with a layover in Minneapolis first. My flight from DC took off late due to “air traffic” (Delta’s explanation) which caused me to miss my connection to Orange County. When the plane landed in Minneapolis I ran to attempt to make the connection, but when I arrived, out of breath and fairly sweaty, the jetway doors had already closed. I was out of luck and so annoyed. Delta had already rebooked me on another flight the following morning so things were looking bad, but I hadn’t quite given up hope of getting home that night. My final opportunity was a flight to LAX that was leaving a few hours later. Of course it was overbooked, but an airline employee put me close to the top of the standby list. Miraculously I got the last seat on the flight so I was headed home! It landed at LAX at midnight. Remember that I was originally supposed to fly to Orange County? This meant that my car was 40 miles away. I took a very expensive taxi ride from one airport to another, picked up my car, and drove an additional 30 minutes to get home at 2 AM. At that point I had been awake for about 20 hours and I was exhausted. I fell asleep around 2:30 AM with my alarm set for 7 AM in order to give myself a bare minimum amount of time to get ready for the Seal Beach 5K in the morning. So everything worked out and I got to run the race, but I never expected it would be such an ordeal!

Running in Arkansas

In order to keep my marathon training on track while visiting family in Arkansas this weekend I ran 10 miles around Lake Fayetteville this morning. It’s a lovely spot, especially with the fall color starting to emerge this time of year, and there’s a 5.5 mile long paved trail that goes all the way around the lake. I ran the loop twice to get all of my needed mileage. It was quite cold (for this Californian, at least) when I started my run, about 42 deg, but it warmed up significantly during the two hours I was out there. I didn’t need my arm warmers for more than the first few miles. When I planned this trip I was a little worried about missing this weekend’s required run, so I’m really glad that I got it done while I was out of town. I’m flying home tomorrow so I have no excuses to miss any upcoming training runs. Darn!